Nigerian Frauds
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Return To Glory: The Powerful Stirring of the Black Man

Courtesy of The Freeman Institute

Frequently asked questions about Nigerian and African Scams


I have listed below answers to frequently asked questions. These answers will help you understand how the criminals rob their victims.

How does the scam work? There is no money in my bank account, how can the scammers rob me if I do not have any money in my bank account?

After establishing contact, the gang asks the victim for the bank account details, and obtains authority to conduct transactions. The scammers do not ask for money initially-but they will eventually do so.

Once the victim has been duped into believing the scam, the criminals ask for "necessary documents" that the victim cannot possibly provide.

These documents are usually Certificates of Incorporation in Nigeria, Business certificates, Tax forms, and other bogus documents.

The victim is then referred to fake Barristers, Lawyers, Government Officials and Bank Managers. These impostors charge fees of up to U$30,000.

After the victim pays one fee, the criminals promptly demand more money for yet another document. This goes on until the victim is no longer able to pay. The end result is that the victim loses all the "fees" and the criminals disappear.

During these transactions, the criminals act aggressively towards the Victim, harassing them and making threatening phone calls.

Recently, the criminals have been requesting that the victim visit Nigeria or even countries such as the Netherlands, UK and the US.  Once the victim arrives, local gang members impersonate high ranking officials.

They produce fake documents, metallic boxes supposedly filled with marked US banknotes, briefcases filled with cash and other counterfeits.


Victims are often asked to deal with fake private security company officials who demand payment before releasing the cash. The criminals will go to unbelievable extents to stage the scam. These scams have netted the gangs huge dividends, so they have better resources with which to create more sophisticated traps. 

The criminals can now afford to buy expensive clothes, jewelry, hire vehicles and expensive rooms in prestigious hotels.  

Nigerian criminal activities are now being reported from the Netherlands and the UK. If the victims are lured to Nigeria, they are introduced to bank officials, and government officers. In many cases, these are other gang members posing as
officials, in other cases they are real, but corrupt government officials.

The criminals will also tell victims that they will facilitate their entry into Nigeria. They do this by bribing custom officers who let the victims into the country without a valid visa.

There are heavy penalties in Nigeria for visitors who enter the country without a valid visa.

When the victims arrive on location, "problems" start to arise. The scam operator tells the victims that a Government official wants a bribe, that the Bank requires a transfer fee, and so on.  At this point in time the victims are truly compromised and they pay.

If the victims change their minds and try to back out of the deal, they are blackmailed because of their illegal entry status.  In other cases unwilling victims have been murdered.

1) Is this a money laundering scheme?

No, there is no real money involved. This is purely a scam. 100% guaranteed. Period.

The bequest, the donation, the inheritance, the hidden funds in metal containers, the millions deposited with (fake) security companies -- they are all frauds. The only real money involved in this scam is the one that is currently sitting in your bank account.

International money laundering, of course, does happen. However, I can assure you, that those involved in laundering money will not be doing it by approaching a total stranger through Yahoo Mail. 

The real international money laundering gangs work through legal firms, established and reliable contacts and corrupt financial agents.

Think about it, if you had US$18 million, would you transfer it to a total stranger's bank account in a foreign country?

The criminals' budget has certainly increased in the last few years. Gangs have robbed western victims (mostly from the US, Australia and Europe) of at least one US billion per year. 

The gangs are becoming more sophisticated and now have the money to purchase equipment and hire other criminals. However, they remain essentially poorly educated, small time crooks.

2) What is the danger of answering these letters?

Attracting the attention of criminals is unhealthy, even if they are in Nigeria or SA or Russia. Global crime is on the increase.  Answering the gang and giving them details of your address and so on will single you out as a "soft target" to scams.

Even if you change your mind afterwards your address will be "sold" to other gangs.

However, until you have sent details of your bank account or sent money there is little they can do. If you are in Nigeria and are threatened, contact your local embassy or consulate and ask for assistance.

If you do contact Nigeria Police, contact their Headquarters --avoid calling local branches.

3) The scam E-mail arrived from Hong King, India or from a country outside Africa how is that possible?

Up until recently, the gangs have used free web-based E-mail accounts such as Hotmail and Yahoo. These services are now immediately identified as a free web-based E-mail accounts.

The gangs are now switching to lesser-known free E-mail services. There are several large reputable US companies who offer free E-mail accounts. Anyone can open an account.

The gangs have been known to use the free E-mail of reputable companies, because they are a well-known and respected telephone companies.

I can assure you that, if such a scam ever appeared in the US, American authorities would shut it down in a New York second!

There is also evidence that this scam has now spread to all African countries. The fraud is easy to carry out and profitable and is bound to spread to countries where law and order authorities are corrupt or ineffective.

Recently a victim called us to report that the criminals had an accent typical of a West African.

4) How many of these letters have "surfaced" on the Internet?

Hundreds of thousands--not just Nigerian type letters. 

The gangs are becoming more sophisticated. There are new scams of "children appealing for money to go to school". The child is usually "middle-aged" and disappears after the money is handed over.

Travel agents defrauded of thousands of dollars after the purchase of tickets by "official members" of the Nigerian Government.

Professional people (and sometimes unemployed persons) offered highly paid executive positions in Africa by fake employment agencies.


Western men (and women) accosted in chat rooms by "single" African criminals. 

The romance ends when the hapless victims have no more money to send to their new found "love". The "girlfriend or boyfriend" in reality is a fat middle-aged Nigerian.

The photographs of the beautiful girl or young man are downloaded from the Internet. Sometimes they are pictures of local celebrities.


Recently, we have received reports that criminals are using chat rooms and personal introduction services to search for possible victims. See our New Scams Page. The criminals impersonate widows of heads of state and dictators. Essentially they prey on the goodwill of the people they meet in the chat rooms. 

More disturbingly, criminals are now targeting charities, religious organizations with fake bequests. 

The gangs use blasphemy in order to win the trust of devout Christian and Muslim people. The criminals will quote verses from the Bible and the Koran and beg for mercy and compassion. 

In some instances, we have received E-mail from charities and churches that were about to send money and aid to the gangs. Fortunately, most charitable organizations find us before they become victims.

I will be focusing my efforts to expose criminals who use blasphemy to rob charities, churches, religious groups and decent, well meaning people. I feel very strongly about this issue. I am truly disgusted by this kind of behavior.

5) How can I help fight the gangs?

Tell your friends about these scams.  Western Governments should also place more pressure on African Governments to act against these gangs. 

Do write to your Government and insist that they provide an efficient service to help prevent these types of criminal activities, and also to provide support for victims. 

I find it amusing that this privately owned website offers a more efficient service to the general public than all the police agencies in the world combined.

Clearly police agencies worldwide are short of funds and expertise about electronic crime. Governments should provide more funds and training to their law enforcement agencies to combat Internet crime. After all this is the crime of the future.

6) I replied to the letter and gave the criminals my address and personal financial details, have I broken the law?

Answering the criminals and asking for more details is not a crime and you should not feel intimidated.

Providing your personal and financial details to the criminals is in itself not a Crime, but it exposes you to further criminal activities.

If you have provided the criminals with a photocopy of your passport or driver's license, report this matter to your local authorities. The criminals could forge these documents and use your identity in future crimes.

If you have provided authorization to access or operate your bank account notify your bank manager immediately. You should do so even if there is no money in your bank account-one day there may be.

7) I made contact with the gang and now they keep calling me on the telephone.

Tell the scammer that you have been in touch with 419 COALITION and that you have read the message from the Nigerian Democratic Movement (NDM).

If they persist or make personal threats, contact your local police. In all cases, do not allow the scammers to terrorize you.

The crooks will respond angrily with insults and threats. While your life would definitely be in danger if you traveled to their country, there is no evidence to suggest that the gangs have the intent or the means to harm people overseas.

If a serious threat occurs, you should contact police and seek their advice.  You should also hire a security consultant to improve your home security.

Please do not ask me to suggest a suitable course of action. I do not have the resources to do so. This is a job for your local police and the security consultant of your choice.


8) I have paid money to the gang how can I recover it?

Unfortunately, It is highly unlikely you will be able to recover your money.

Under no circumstances should you even think of traveling to Nigeria to recover your money. By doing so you will be endangering your life. You will also risk becoming the victim of muggings, kidnappings and other criminal activities.

In some cases, victims of scams have fallen into even bigger scams set up by fake lawyers offering their services to prosecute the gangs.

Accept the fact that you have been robbed. Treat it as you would a house robbery Treat this event as a valuable lesson and put it behind you. 

I believe that good comes out from all evil. Sometimes these "lessons" are blessings in disguise. They raise your awareness and help you prevent yourself from becoming a victim of a more serious crime.

Certainly, there is no point in despairing. Your money is gone. Even if you did manage to get the crooks arrested (and that is highly unlikely) you are not going to recover your finances. Meanwhile you would have wasted even more resources (both emotional and financial).

Wealth can return, but without peace of mind life is unbearable.

9) I feel angry and violated. How can I help prosecute the criminals?

The best course of action is to warn as many people as possible.

There are new scams surfacing similar to the 419 Nigerian Scam Letter. For example there is a new wave of fake banks appearing on the internet.  All of the websites share the same animated flash image and they are all using  .org domain names. 

Warn your friends and help organizations that offer free services to the community.  Placing a link to your website to will also help protect your visitors and friends.

You can report the scammers and other criminals to the FBI via their Internet Fraud Complaint Centre

The FBI website is by far the most efficient law enforcement agency in the world in providing a fully automated service for reporting crime worldwide.

US citizens can also lodge a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission on line at

The Commission deals mainly with complaints about malpractice within the US. However, if you have been robbed, they may be able to provide you with some assistance.

US citizens who have been defrauded may contact The United States Secret Service Financial Crimes Division, 1800 G Street N.W. Room 942 Washington, D.C. 20223 Attn: Nigerian Scam

US who have been robbed may also want to visit this address:

U. S. Consulate General
2, Walter Carrington Crescent
Victoria Island, Lagos Nigeria
Telephone: (234)-1-261-0050, 261-0078, 261-0158
Fax: (234)-1-261-9856


The Consulate cannot help you conduct investigations or give you information about the people who have contacted you. To achieve that you will need to hire a private investigator. We cannot recommend a Nigerian investigator who can be trusted.

The Nigerian Government has recently launched a web site dedicated to the scam. Visit

We were told that on this website there is a link which you can use to report the scammers.

Unfortunately, this site seems to be inoperative most of the times. We have tried logging in on several occasions without success.

You may also try writing to the Nigerian Police. Their website is at

There is an E-mail address on that website and a list of telephone numbers you can call. If you are successful in getting cooperation, let me know the officer's name, number and E-mail and I will publish it here.

I have received mail from a victim who reported the criminals to the Nigerian Police through this website. The victim told me the Nigerian Police answered him and seemed to be genuinely interested in the case.

This is encouraging news and I hope that it signals a change of attitude. However, do not be disappointed if you do not receive a reply. 

10) How did they get my name and address? Why did they pick me for the scam?

The criminals did not single you out. They are constantly searching the Internet for names of possible victims.

They use E-mail harvesting software, buy illegally obtained spam lists, search newsgroups, message boards, advertisements, chat rooms, trade registers and so on.

At times they even use legitimate registers, for example those provided from associations and government bodies.

We tested this theory by placing advertisements in a number of legitimate trade registers and other user groups. Within hours we started receiving scam

As a general rule, never place your main E-mail address in user groups. Use a Web-based E-mail service instead.

11) I am going to abuse the crooks and send them a link to both  and all the other web sites who publish warnings about scam letters.


A well-meaning person did just that and we are still fighting off viruses and hacker attacks.  In any case, it is a very bad idea to reply to the criminals.

The criminals send thousands of E-mails and a reply (even if it is abusive) will single you out. Ignore them. Fight the urge to retaliate. It could come back to bite you.

One thing that you can do, is report the criminal as a spammer to the provider of the E-mail service they use.

For example, in the case of Yahoo, send the full E-mail including the hidden headers to

Be sure to send the full message with headers, or Yahoo will not be able to act on your complaint. Check with your E-mail software about how to view the headers of incoming E-mail.

If the criminal uses another web-based E-mail service, send the complaint to abuse@*****enter the name of the service.

For example if the criminal's address is you should send the full message including the header to >>>>>>>>

Reporting the scammers to the E-mail provider is a good thing because the criminals' E-mail service is cancelled, and they have to start all over again.

12) Why doesn't  catch these criminals?  is not a law enforcement agency. It is an Association. I have the same powers of catching criminals as you do.  Moreover is run by volunteers. It's a labor of love.

Catching these criminals is difficult even for law enforcement agencies such as INTERPOL and the FBI. The criminals move constantly and often have corrupt supporters who protect them. 

The only effective way to deal with these gangs is to warn the public about the scams. 

You can also help by placing links on your web site and by supporting agencies that offer free services to the community.

13) How can people fall for such scams?

Among the victims are lawyers, real estate agents and professionals.

Sadly, most of the victims are people struggling with financial problems. We have read many heart rending stories of retrenched people selling their family home (or their parents') in order to pay the criminals. People who are down are most vulnerable to such scams.

What surprises me is the number of professionals who also fall for these scams. I suppose the prospect of receiving US$200 million is a very powerful incentive to silence the voice of reason.

If you have been caught, I strongly suggest you arrange for counseling. Don't allow the criminals to ruin your entire life. They can only rob you of money, don't allow them to take your spirit also.

14) Can  help me with investigations, telephone counseling and legal matters?

Unfortunately, I cannot provide a personal service. I do not have the resources to offer such a service. What I can do though, is try to help prevent people becoming victims of scams.

I know I am making a difference. My Scam Alert service has helped thousands of people escape the criminals. I am receiving hundreds of E-mail per month from near victims thanking me for the free service.

It would be nice to be able to have a task force dedicated to helping victims of scams and even catching the criminals, but at the moment this is just a dream.

Please do not call me on the telephone because I will not be able to take your call. Even if I did answer the call, I would not be able to tell you any more than what I have already written on this page.

Contact your local politician and ask them to provide a service for victims of scams in your country or region.

15) Does  offer a paid personal service?

No, we do not offer a paid service; it would be unethical and dishonest to charge for a service that cannot provide any solutions. Be extremely cautious about paying organizations offering to help you recover your money.

If you have been robbed, the only body that can help you recover the money would be the Police with the support of the Government where the criminals live and operate. 

Hiring a local private investigator is another solution. However, I do not know of any reliable and trustworthy investigators operating in the areas where criminals operate.

I have received information of victims being robbed a second time by bogus lawyers, fake police and fake private investigators.

If you are financially disadvantaged, your local pastor/priest/rabbi or local Area Health Service (hospitals, charities and benevolent organizations) may be able to offer you a free counseling service.

People who are able to afford a professional counseling service should do so by contacting their local accredited counselor.

15) Who finances ?

At the moment, we are supporting this service by paying for the website, upgrading the pages, answering victims' and near victims' E-mail, and processing new scams.

We want to make it perfectly clear that we do not expect anyone to sponsor this service. It is a labor of love. During this time we have received no finances because we have never asked for it.

After over three years of research we have discovered that the best way to deal with 419 scams is to expose them on the Internet. This problem is so huge that is almost impossible for African governments to address these frauds. There are always "bigger fish to fry". And some argue that the governments do not have the finances, or in some cases the will, to stop them.

Our view is that if everyone did their best to stop crime, there would be no crime. Criminals thrive on the apathy of others. And in 419 scams they thrive on the victim keeping a secret. Scam artists are experts at isolating victims, even from their own families. In the vow of victims do not bring in others who could provide the objectivity to see the scam for what it is.

It is ridiculous to expect that law enforcement authorities alone will be able to prevent criminal activities, or be efficient at catching all criminals.  They never have and never will.

All law enforcement agencies that we know suffer from chronic lack of funds. Government must be pressured into providing more resources to their crime fighting agencies. 

With appropriate funding, it would be easy to create an efficient global computer crime fighting agency. Ultimately, crime prevention is the duty of every honest human being. 

Report crime to police and warn others of potential criminal activities.



Not much. We don't want to sound fatalistic, but the reality is that the scam artists hide behind untraceable email addresses, sending their scam letters from pay-by-the-hour Internet Cafes. The governments of Africa are generally in a survival mode, with little interest in dealing with some Internet scam artist in a local village. There are always bigger fish to fry. 

Plus we have actually talked with West African government and business officials about their perception of these 419 scams. They have expressed amazement that anyone could be fooled by the  empty promises contained in emails from a stranger in Africa. In their eyes, the culpability goes both ways. "Who could be such a fool to give money to someone they have never met?" This is a valid question for all of us to ponder...

What we have done at The Freeman Institute is to provide a free service to warn individuals who may be flirting with the idea of great wealth coming their way. Our motto is: Run, don't walk, away from these scams and then do what you can to warn people about this pervasive problem. Feel free to provide a link to -- so that more people can see the truth about these 419 scams.


For hard numbers, the Australian Institute of Criminology article and the US Dept. of State pub. 10465 will prepare you better than this site will. Really good backgrounders. From these you will get an idea of the scope of this scam. There are already inter-governmental relationships established over this issue.


"Dealing  With  People  Who  Drive  You  Crazy!"®
The Freeman Institute™

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